“When compared with the suppression of anarchy every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions.”
Over the last years, we learned a lot about how the Great Firewall of ChinaisblockingTor. Some questions remained unanswered, however. Roya, Mueen, Jed, and I just published a project which seeks to answer some of these open questions. Being curious as we are, we tried to find answers to the following questions:
Is the filtering decentralised (i.e., happening in provinces) or centralised (i.e., happening in Internet exchange points (IXP))?
Are there any temporal patterns in the filtering? Or in other words, are there certain times when people are more likely to be able to connect to Tor?
Similarly, are there any spatial patterns? Are folks in some special regions of China able to connect to Tor while others cannot?
When a computer in China tries to connect to a Tor relay, what part of the TCP handshake is blocked?
It turns out that some of these questions are quite tricky to answer. For example, to find spatial patterns, we need to be able to measure the connectivity between many Tor relays and many clients in China. However, we are not able to control even a single one of these machines. So how do we proceed from here? As so often, side channels come to the rescue! In particular, we made use of two neat network measurement side channels which are the hybrid idle scan and the SYN backlog scan. The backlog scan is a new side channel we discovered and discuss in our paper. Equipped with these two powerful techniques, we were able to infer if there is packet loss between relay A and client B even though we cannot control A and B.
You might notice that our measurement techniques are quite different from most other Internet censorship studies which rely on machines inside the censoring country. While our techniques give us a lot more geographical coverage, they come at a price which is flexibility; we are limited to measuring Internet filtering on the IP layer. More sophisticated filtering techniques such as deep packet inspection remain outside our scope.
Now what we did was to measure the connectivity between several dozen Tor relays and computers in China over four weeks which means that we collected plenty of data points, each of which telling us “was A able to talk to B at time T?”. These data points reveal a number of interesting things:
It appears that many IP addresses inside the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) are able to connect to at least our Tor relay.
Apart from the CERNET netblock, the filtering seems to be quite effective despite occasional country-wide downtimes.
It seems like the filtering is centralised at the IXP level instead of being decentralised at the provincial level. That makes sense from the censor’s point of view because it is cheap, effective, and easy to control.
Now what does all of this mean for Tor users? Our results show that China still has a tight grip on its communication infrastructure, especially on the IP and TCP layer. That is why our circumvention efforts mostly focus on the application layer (with meek being an exception) and pluggable transport protocols such as ScrambleSuit (which is now part of the experimental version of TorBrowser) and obfs4 are specifically designed to thwart the firewall’s active probing attacks.
When Amy Meyer saw a sick cow being pushed by a bulldozer outside a slaughterhouse, she did what any of us would in this age of iPhones and Instagram – she filmed it.
Meyer, 25, knew it was not only cruel, it was a public safety risk.
Similar video footage had resulted in the largest meat recall in US history, when it was revealed that cows too sick to walk were being fed to school children as part of the national school lunch program.
Instead of being praised for exposing this, Meyer was prosecuted.
Even though she stood on public property, she was charged with violating a new law in Utah that makes it illegal to photograph or videotape factory farms and slaughterhouses.
This was the first prosecution of its kind in the United States, but if the agriculture industry has its way, it won’t be the last.
“Ag-gag” laws have spread rapidly, and today half a dozen states have made it illegal to film factory farms.
Now, the agriculture industry wants to bring ag-gag to Australia.
This legislation is a direct response to undercover investigations by animal welfare groups, which have exposed horrific animal cruelty.
For example, in Idaho this year, an undercover investigator with Mercy For Animals exposed workers beating, kicking and sexually abusing cows at Bettencourt dairy.
In response, the dairy industry supported SB 1337, an ag-gag bill that prohibits any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility.
It punishes those who expose animal abuse more harshly than those who commit the violence. The bill passed into law just weeks ago.
Time and again, wherever undercover investigators expose cruelty, the industry fights back with attempts to keep consumers in the dark.
Why? Because when people see the reality of factory farming, they demand change. For instance, one of the nation’s largest egg producers testified during an ag-gag hearing that, after an undercover video was posted online, 50 businesses quickly called and stopped buying their eggs.
And, according to the first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, when animal welfare issues are reported in the news, consumers respond by eating less meat.
Factory farmers have been so desperate to silence their critics that they have even called investigators “terrorists”.
Senator David Hinkins, the sponsor of Utah’s ag-gag bill, said it was needed to stop “terrorists” such as “the vegetarian people” who “are trying to kill the animal industry”.
This terrorism rhetoric has worked its way to the top levels of government.
FBI files have revealed that the government has even considered prosecuting those who film animal cruelty as “terrorists”.
Now, this is spreading to Australia.
New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson has said undercover investigators are “akin to terrorists”.
West Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back, and a number Australian federal politicians, have voiced support for US-style ag-gag laws.
Ag-gag is coming to Australia because animal advocates have been incredibly effective.
There is a long history of open rescues and undercover investigations here, and activists such as Patty Mark and Animal Liberation Victoria are known internationally for their pioneering work.
Meanwhile, national media exposes such as Four Corners’ “A Bloody Business” have outraged the public and created a national dialogue about live exports.
Australians have an opportunity that we lacked in the United States: you can stop these dangerous proposals before they ever become law.
If there is one thing I have learnt in my reporting on ag-gag laws, it is the power of an informed public to create change.
Amy Meyer stands as an example of that power. Just 24 hours after I broke the story of her prosecution, it had created such an uproar that prosecutors announced they were simply dropping all charges.
Meyer had never intended to face prosecution, or to lead by example, but she rose to the occasion. Australia has the power to do the same.
“[…] Compared to the ‘normal’ internet — which is based on a few centralized access points or internet service providers (ISPs) — mesh networks have many benefits, from architectural to political.
[…] An ad hoc network infrastructure that can be set up by anyone, mesh networks wirelessly connect computers and devices directly to each other without passing through any central authority or centralized organization (like a phone company or an ISP). They can automatically reconfigure themselves according to the availability and proximity of bandwidth, storage, and so on; this is what makes them resistant to disaster and other interference. Dynamic connections between nodes enable packets to use multiple routes to travel through the network, which makes these networks more robust.
Compared to more centralized network architectures, the only way to shut down a mesh network is to shut down every single node in the network.
That’s the vital feature, and what makes it stronger in some ways than the regular internet.
But mesh networks aren’t just for political upheavals or natural disasters. Many have been installed as part of humanitarian programs, aimed at helping poor neighborhoods and underserved areas. For people who can’t afford to pay for an internet connection, or don’t have access to a proper communications infrastructure, mesh networks provide the basic infrastructure for connectivity.
Not only do mesh networks represent a cheap and efficient means for people to connect and communicate to a broader community, but they provide us with a choice for what kind of internet we want to have.
For these concerned about the erosion of online privacy and anonymity, mesh networking represents a way to preserve the confidentiality of online communications. Given the lack of a central regulating authority, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to assess the real identity of users connected to these networks. And because mesh networks are generally invisible to the internet, the only way to monitor mesh traffic is to be locally and directly connected to them.
Yet beyond the benefits of costs and elasticity, little attention has been given to the real power of mesh networking: the social impact it could have on the way communities form and operate.
What’s really revolutionary about mesh networking isn’t the novel use of technology. It’s the fact that it provides a means for people to self-organize into communities and share resources amongst themselves: Mesh networks are operated by the community, for the community. Especially because the internet has become essential to our everyday life.
Instead of relying on the network infrastructure provided by third party ISPs, mesh networks rely on the infrastructure provided by a network of peers that self-organize according to a bottom-up system of governance. Such infrastructure is not owned by any single entity. To the extent that everyone contributes with their own resources to the general operation of the network, it is the community as a whole that effectively controls the infrastructure of communication. And given that the network does not require any centralized authority to operate, there is no longer any unilateral dependency between users and their ISPs.
Mesh networking therefore provides an alternative perspective to traditional governance models based on top-down regulation and centralized control.
Indeed, with mesh networking, people are building a community-grown network infrastructure: a distributed mesh of local but interconnected networks, operated by a variety of grassroots communities. Their goal is to provide a more resilient system of communication while also promoting a more democratic access to the internet. […]”
Supermax prisons and solitary confinement units are our domestic black sites—hidden places where human beings endure unspeakable punishments, without benefit of due process in any court of law. On the say-so of corrections officials, American prisoners can be placed in conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for months, years, or even decades.
At least 80,000 men, women, and children live in such conditions on any given day in the United States. And they are not merely separated from others for safety reasons. They are effectively buried alive. Most live in concrete cells the size of an average parking space, often windowless, cut off from all communication by solid steel doors. If they are lucky, they will be allowed out for an hour a day to shower or to exercise alone in cages resembling dog runs.
Most have never committed a violent act in prison. They are locked down because they’ve been classified as “high risk,” or because of nonviolent misbehavior—anything from mouthing off or testing positive for marijuana to exhibiting the symptoms of untreated mental illness.
A recent lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners in ADX, the federal supermax in Florence, CO, described how humans respond to such isolation over the long-term. Some “interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells” or carry on “delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads.” Some “mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, and writing utensils” or “swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects.” Still others “spread feces and other human waste and body fluids throughout their cells [and] throw it at the correctional staff.” While less than 5 percent of US prisoners nationwide are held in solitary, close to 50 percent of all prison suicides take place there.
After three years of reporting on solitary confinement for Solitary Watch, a website I co-founded, I’m convinced that much of what happens in these places constitutes torture. How is it possible that a human-rights crisis of this magnitude can carry on year after year, with impunity?
I believe part of the answer has to do with how effectively the nature of these sites have been hidden from the press and, by extension, the public. With few exceptions, solitary confinement cells have been kept firmly off-limits to journalists—with the approval of the federal courts, who defer to corrections officials’ purported need to maintain “safety and security.” If the First Amendment ever manages to make it past the prison gates at all, it is stopped short at the door to the isolation unit.
The internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. When some users search the word “Egypt,” they may get the latest news about the revolution, others might only see search results about Egyptian vacations. The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit—and then custom-design their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. What impact will this online filtering have on the future of democracy? We speak to Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. “Take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country,” says Pariser. “But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the ‘like’ button. And the ‘like’ button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click ‘like’ on ‘I just ran a marathon’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake.’ It’s very hard to click ‘like’ on ‘war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.'”